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Nurses care for us – it’s time we stand up and do more for them | Opinion

How the Pa. Rescue Plan will help nurses recover from the pandemic

A certified nurse anesthetist at work (Photo via University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh/Flickr Commons)

By Bridget M. Kosierowski

“I can work in a gas station and make more money than being a nurse in a nursing home. I want my residents to spend their final years with dignity and respect. COVID didn’t start this crisis; it just shined a light on it.” – A Certified Nursing Assistant from Lackawanna County addresses a House Democratic Policy Hearing on working conditions in long-term care homes.

Nurses were already just about the hardest-working people in the world. No matter if they work in a long-term care center, an intensive care ward or a private practice everyone knows nurses are the ones really getting the work done – but the problem is those nurses aren’t getting paid for that work the way they deserve to be paid.

Having worked as a registered nurse in hospital settings for 27 years I can attest a nurse spends about 75 minutes with a patient. A nurse sees the truth behind the diagnosis. A nurse sees the reality of a treatment. A nurse is a caregiver, a counselor, an advocate.

Then COVID-19 came, and a nurse’s job got a lot harder – and more dangerous. Almost 4,000 health care providers died of COVID-19 since March 2020. More than two-thirds of them were people of color. Overwhelmingly the people who did the most hands-on patient care are the ones who caught the virus.

Seventy-five minutes a patient. More in long-term care homes.

For a while the news was getting better. Case counts were dropping. Deaths were dropping. We were getting vaccines in arms faster than almost any state in the nation and we were getting back to close to normal.

And now the Delta Variant is bringing the risk back, and the unvaccinated are refusing to believe it’s real until they’re dying in a hospital bed, unable to even say goodbye to their loved ones – but comforted by nurses.

Long-term care workers and nurses everywhere are standing up for fair wages, safe workplaces and to have more tools to take care of our grandparents and parents – and someday, us.

House Democrats are proud to stand with these care workers, but we want to do more than just stand behind them – we want to lead for them.

Thanks to President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan – Pennsylvania got more than $7 billion in COVID-19 relief, and our PA Rescue Plan is fighting to ensure these funds from Washington get to the people who need it most – including working Pennsylvanians.

We’ve got a plan that invests more than a HALF-BILLION DOLLARS in direct care workers. Investing in training – including helping to repay the student loans of care workers who stay here at home. Delivering long-overdue pay raises for those working directly with seniors in their homes. Investing in the local businesses connecting workers with people in need.

It just makes sense, and it helps our seniors stay in the homes they spent a lifetime building – where the outcomes are better for everyone.

We can invest these dollars and truly make a difference. In our nurses, in job creation, in helping businesses – in a better tomorrow for EVERYONE and an economy built from the bottom up.

Sadly, the Republican majority in Harrisburg put most of the money away in a government vault for a “rainy day” – but could you even want to imagine a bigger storm than COVID-19?

Lives have been lost. People are suffering. Our PA Rescue Plan is how we recover from the virus, restore our economy, and reimagine a better future for us all – especially the hard-working nurses and care workers who want nothing more than to be able to do their jobs and be there for our loved ones.

State Rep. Bridget Kosierowski , a Democrat, represents the Lackawanna County-based 114th House District. She writes from Harrisburg.

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